Over the past eighteen years, I’ve humorously noted that I live in the semi-sovereign theocracy of Deseret… and over the past week or so events in Utah have reminded me of that even more. The first of those events was the pronouncement by the LDS Prophet and Revelator that young men, particularly returned missionaries, needed to immediately settle down and get married, rather than enjoying the life of a single male. Now… considering that something like 98% of these young men are 20 or 21 years old with either no college education at all or a year or so at most, and considering that almost all men anywhere marry someone their own age or younger, this pronouncement struck me as a commandment with the direct impact of keeping women effectively barefoot and pregnant, since I’ve observed that, in the vast majority of young married couples in Utah, the woman forgoes or postpones education in order to support and educate her husband.
The Prophet also stated that men should treat their wives as equals, but no one seems to have remarked on the incredible condescension buried in this statement, because it carries the implication that women are not equal, but should be treated as such.
Interestingly enough, several other recent events and reports reinforce and illustrate this problem. First, the Utah State Department of Education just sent a letter to a number of high schools declaring that a slide show that the state had developed on birth control methods “must not be used.” Even more interesting was the fact that the slide show, in accord with Utah law, did not advocate using any form of birth control, but only factually presented various methods and emphasized that abstinence was the only 100% effective form of birth control and that condoms were not fully protective against many forms of sexually transmitted diseases. That wasn’t enough for lawmakers and various activists, who successfully pressured the State Department of Education into withdrawing the presentation.
Third, in the wake of Equal Pay Day, figures from the Utah Department of Workforce Services revealed that Utah has: (1) one of the worst wage gaps between men and women’s wages; (2) the greatest gap between the wages of college-educated men and women of any state; and (3) is the only state in the union where the percentage of women graduating from college has declined compared to all other states. Nationally, women earn 77% of what men earn; in Utah, the figure is 68%. Nationally, men with bachelor’s degrees earn 1.3% more than women do. In Utah, men with undergraduate degrees earn 6% more than do women with the same degrees; the state with the next worst discrepancy is Idaho, where men with a bachelor’s degree earn 2.7% more than do women with the same degree. In 1980, Utah women graduated from college at a higher rate than women in all other states. Although the graduation rate has increased somewhat, the increase has been so small that women in other states now graduate at a higher rate.
Another interesting fact is that Utah, for all of its cultural emphasis on marriage for life and eternity, actually has a divorce rate higher than the national average, and two-thirds of all Utah women with children work. So… it’s not exactly as though all that support of husbands actually relieves Utah women of any financial burden or requirement to work.
And the Utah reaction to this? Well… Senator Orrin Hatch opposed the Paycheck Fairness Act, designed to close loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, because civil penalties on employers who discriminated in paying women less were too high. Also, the vast majority of the Utah legislature, as I noted in a previous blog, attempted to gut the Utah open records law and to remove references to the names and genders of state employees – which would have effectively made disclosure of pay discrepancies by gender impossible.
Now… if I have this all straight… young Utah men are supposed to get married before they finish their education, requiring their wives to support them and delay and forgo their education, and schools are not supposed to offer factual information to those young women about birth control, and… by the way, Utah has the highest birth rate in the nation and the greatest wage discrepancies between college-educated men and women… and the majority of Utah law-makers oppose both dissemination of birth control information and measures that would reduce pay discrimination against women.
Reporting straight from the semi-sovereign theocracy of Deseret…